Every year around this time, I write a family Christmas card. To include everyone’s perspective, I ask each person in the family to come up with “two good things” for the year.
This evening, my annual question was greeted with disdain.
“What? This year?” one said.
“Yea, we didn’t even do anything,” another chimed in.
“It’s 2020, Mom,” the last one agreed in a get-with-the-program voice. “We couldn’t do anything, remember?”
They all looked at me with complete exasperation—including my husband. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Aspen, the almost-a-year-old “puppy” (who weighs in around 80 pounds now). “What about Aspen?”
Everyone agreed: Aspen was a good thing. “She was before quarantine,” the middle son pointed out.
“OK, but you did things before quarantine,” I prompted. “January? February?”
The oldest suddenly brightened. “I got a job. That’s one of mine.” I wrote it down, nodding in agreement. He paused for a moment. “And Spain. That was good.” He and his girlfriend had been visiting over spring break when everything started to shut down in the USA. They left Spain hours before the airports closed there, stopping for a quick 36 hours in England, before finally arriving in Boston just as the European travel ban kicked in.
“The quarantine part afterwards? Definitely not on the two good things. Make sure you put that in there. Being stuck in just two rooms for two weeks with one other person? Not fun,” he announced.
I turned to my daughter. “And you? What about the trip to the Midwest to see family?”
She slowly agreed. “And Aspen.”
The middle son joined in, very decisively. “Aspen for me. And snowboarding.” He had gone again today. Snowboarding makes his list annually. (I sometimes wonder what his answer would be if we pulled the annual recollections together in the summer?)
That left my husband. “Aspen,” he said as he smiled down at her. She was confused why her name was being tossed about the room so often and kept going towards each speaker. “But I have no idea on the rest. Nothing happened this year.”
I feel I should make an offside note here–kind of like of those moments in a crime show on TV where they say, “off the record”—that my husband never likes this game of mine. He is not one to reflect at the end of each day to look for the “two good things of the day”. I am quite aware that he only plays along to keep the peace.
I retreat to the office. As I start to write this all down in Christmas card form, I see the photos I’ve pulled out of 2020’s computer file. There is his pergola. And there is our RV up on the hill in the glorious fall colors. “Hey,” I yell up to him, “what about the RV? And the outdoor kitchen and pergola? The pizza oven?”
“Oh,” he says. “Right.”
And then it hits me, yet again, about how it is just so dang easy to see the negative things.
I’m guilty of it today, too. I “finally” went for a walk with friends this afternoon—just two, at least six feet apart and outside. We compared COVID test notes: one friend had been tested on Friday. I was tested the Friday prior, because of the hand surgery. And the other friend is tested regularly because she works in a nursing home.
I felt annoyed that we had to take these “stupid precautions”—even as I rejoiced in seeing friends again after a week of isolation from the procedure and following COVID rules.
And yes, what we did technically broke Vermont’s rules. We are to only have one other household gathering. We should have worn masks. I should not have let one friend change out of her shoes and into her boots inside our house, seated for a few minutes on a bench in the mudroom instead of the stone wall outside.
When I look for my two good things of the year, I didn’t immediately think about writing this book, and the lessons I am learning about looking for the positive. Nope. My mind went exactly where the rest of my family’s went: to the things we have missed.
What about all those wonderful things we did? Because we couldn’t do the things that we would have normally? What about all those “good things that happened… because of a pandemic?”
Ridiculous, isn’t it? I have spent ten months now, writing about these every day. Every. Single. Day. One would think it would be second nature by now!
My—very chagrined and chastised–silver lining today? Gratitude for the reminder of how important it is for me to look for these silver linings!